Download World-Class Sport Fishing Brown Trout (How To's on Catching
The Mataura, when we got to it, was worth the trouble — a wide river of beautiful glides and runs that allow long, drag-free drifts of dry flies, the kind that float on the surface. The numbers of anglers casting on the New Zealand streams we fished were far fewer than we had experienced on comparable streams in Montana or Idaho.
Only superb fishing could justify the 22 hours of flights that had taken us from Boston to San Francisco, to Auckland, Christchurch and then to Invercargill.
New Zealand, the size of Colorado, ranks among the world’s great trout destinations, and its trout are stream-born wild fish that are selective in taking flies, make high leaps out of the water and run spectacularly when hooked.
Most tourists fishing these waters will catch at least one three-pound trout a day, according to Mr. McLoughlin, and fishermen will frequently catch 17- to 19-inch fish. Some streams contain trout that average five to seven pounds, said Ron Granneman, a retired guide from the Bighorn River in Montana, who fishes New Zealand in the summer.
New Zealand began importing brown trout from Germany, France and England in the 1860s, and they thrived. So did rainbow trout, brought in later from the Russian River in California. But brown trout dominate on South Island, and browns are the greater challenge. Many fly fishermen consider them the most difficult to catch of all trout.
Fish are not, of course, the only reason to visit the alpine country of the South Island. The region also attracts hikers, mountain climbers, kayakers and photographers. The highest peak, Mount Cook, is more than 12,000 feet, and gin-clear streams cascade down to river valleys. The views are spectacular, and the sunrises in the big sky are like those of the American West, bursting with color.
The country itself is tough on the body. The Mataura’s banks grow heavy with thick grass that hides where the banks end and sometimes sent us slipping into pasture holes. Thistle so prickly it can puncture fingers and even pierce tiny holes in fishing waders was everywhere.
Even in open pastures, the banks were 15 feet or more above the river. We slid down the grass to the stream and then, when climbing out to leave, grabbed the heavy grass roots and inched ourselves up slowly. But the reward was trout, hiding in deep holes, long riffles, and upstream or downstream of willows at the river’s edge.
I quickly learned that the fishing was not easy. In fact, because of rain and rising, discolored water, I caught fewer than eight fish the first two days.
Curt Nelson, a retired engineer from Gales Ferry, Conn., who has made lengthy trips to South Island for 15 years, said he would not recommend going there to fish for less than three weeks. Because of frequent rains, the rivers flood. “You may be wiped out for a week,” he said.
His warning, delivered back in Connecticut, proved prophetic. We had rains for 4 of the 10 days spent fishing there.
Thwarted by rain on the third day, we drove about 100 miles north to Queenstown, where sunny skies promoted breathtaking views of the blue-green waters of Lake Wakatipu, with the Franklin Mountains beyond. The city is near a hikers’ nirvana, the Milford Track, considered one of the most beautiful hikes in the world.
Hundreds of young people were arriving to hike or bungee jump off the nearby hillsides, so Queenstown had a festive atmosphere. The town has a touristy feel, full of expensive shops and feed-them-fast restaurants, but overfilled with roast lamb for several days back in Gore, we opted here for pizza and beer.
The next day, when we returned to the river, Mr. McLoughlin, the Connecticut boat captain, got serious about teaching me the fishing etiquette expected by Kiwis. He led me on a progressively arduous assault on pasture gates and barbed wire. Never, he cautioned, enter a paddock (or pasture) without first meeting the farmer and asking permission.
Farmers and other landowners are generally hospitable and usually allow well-mannered fishermen access to rivers and streams, he said. But do not fail to close a gate, lest livestock get out. Finally, ask the local landowner if he or she would like a trout for tea (dinner) if you catch one. On my last night in New Zealand, trout were rising to the surface all around us, feeding on a heavy hatch of small brown mayflies, and I dreamed of trout that night. I knew I would return to the South Island.
IF YOU GO
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Anglers can spend upward of 10,000 New Zealand dollars a week at opulent fishing lodges with gourmet dining, whirlpool tubs, fireplaces and helicopter rides to remote streams. But in the dairy and sheep herding country near Gore, on the South Island, excellent fishing and a lower-key travel experience can be had for much less.
For a first-time visitor who plans to fish, it’s essential to hire a guide for several days; reservations should be made at least three months ahead for the busiest season, January through April. Prices start at about 550 New Zealand dollars (about $414, at 1.33 New Zealand dollars to the U.S. dollar) for an 8- to 10-hour guided trip for two. Bryan Burgess (B & B Sports, 65 Main Street, Gore; 64-3-208-0801; bbsports.co.nz) is an experienced guide. A list of professional guides is available at www.fishingguides.co.nz.
A recent Web search yielded fares starting at about $1,600 for flights from New York to Invercargill, South Island, in the next month. From Invercargill, Gore is about an hour’s drive.
WHERE TO STAY
The Brentleigh Homestead (1032 Riversdale Ardlussa Road, Gore; 64-3-201-6166; brentleigh.co.nz) offers a farm setting, with doubles starting at about 325 New Zealand dollars, including breakfast, cocktail hour, dinner and a farm tour.
The Heartland Hotel Croydon (Gore-Queenstown Highway, Gore; 64-3-357-1919; www.scenichotelgroup.co.nz) has doubles starting at 100 dollars.
The nearest luxury lodge to Gore, about an hour’s drive away, is the Lodge at Tikana (374 Livingstone Road, Browns, Winton; 64-3-236-4117; tikana.co.nz); doubles start at 1,800 dollars, including a full breakfast, dinner and all wines and beverages.
WHERE TO FISH
South Island has about 3,000 miles of trout waters. Each of the four principal rivers near Gore — the Mataura, Oreti, Aparima and Makarewa — has dozens of tributaries worth exploring, depending upon water levels.
A seasonal license for a nonresident adult is 105 dollars and can be obtained at fishing tackle stores and at convenience stores.
Stu’s Fly Shop (Route 6, Athol; 64-3-248-8890; stusflyshop.com), about 50 minutes from Gore on the Upper Mataura River, sells a wide assortment of fly-fishing tackle and provides good advice about local fishing.
A version of this article appears in print on January 31, 2010, on page TR9 of the New York edition with the headline: A Long Road to World-Class Fly Fishing.